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Before his brilliant Hollywood career as a director of sparkling sex
comedies, Ernst Lubitsch starred (and directed himself) in a long series
silent comedies (most of them four reels long) in Germany. He typically
played a pushy Jewish character, and many of his early comedies featured
up-to-the-minute slang and Yiddishisms in the dialogue titles. Although
name of Lubitsch's onscreen character varied from one film to the next,
characterisation was a fairly consistent one.
'Meyer from Berlin' is a standard entry in the series, and it's pretty good. In the opening scene, a Berlin doctor gets a letter from Meyer, asking him to visit Meyer's house to diagnose Meyer for an (imaginary) illness and to prescribe a long holiday, so that Meyer can get away from his wife. From this set-up, we expect Meyer's wife to be an ugly shrew. The next scene shows Meyer at home in bed, pretending to be ill. But Frau Paula Meyer turns out to be an attractive young woman in a fetching nightie, who genuinely cares about her husband. I can't see why he's so eager to get away from her... unless it's that whacking huge bottle labelled 'Castor Oil' that she keeps brandishing.
Soon enough, Meyer is off to the Tyrol, dressed in lederhosen and brandishing an alpenstock. He straight away introduces himself to an attractive young lady named Kitty. Several other men are also pressing their attentions upon Kitty, but Meyer uses some clever stratagems to get her all for himself. Kitty's husband Harry is elsewhere, but she decides to feign interest in Meyer (the least threatening man in the hotel) so as to discourage all the other men.
Complications ensue. Eventually Harry and Paula (travelling together, as if they were a married couple) catch up with Meyer and Kitty (ditto) in an Alpine lodge, where each cross-couple spends the night without realising the other couple is there too.
There are some very funny gags in this film, even though Lubitsch is required to remind us constantly that his onscreen character is a scheming Jew. At one point, to impress Kitty, Meyer agrees to climb a 2800-metre mountain. The night before the ascent, he has a trick-photography nightmare in which a mountain labelled '2800' materialises next to his bed. Meyer casually removes the two noughts, and the mountain (now only 28 metres high) obligingly dwindles. But this sight gag is spoilt by an unfunny Jewish-stereotype joke ... speaking directly to the camera, Lubitsch adds: 'I knew I could haggle with that mountain.' In other words, a Jew will always haggle. Ha ha, how unfunny.
There are some very delightful exterior sequences of Weimar Germany, and these have a charming air of cinema-verite; while Lubitsch is doing something in the foreground, the real people in the background (not actors) are doing something completely unrelated to his actions. The interiors are less successful than the exteriors: Meyer and his wife Paula have an absolutely gigantic bedroom with a very high ceiling: this room is so huge, it's clearly a film set rather than a room where real people sleep.
There's a funny (and kinky) sequence in the Alpine lodge, when Meyer kneels in front of Kitty to undo the long, long, LONG bootlaces on her elegant knee-high boots, while he tells her 'I used to work in a shoe store.' This may be an in-joke reference to 'Shoepalace Pincus', a previous film starring Lubitsch that had been a big box-office hit.
'Meyer from Berlin' is a fascinating look at an early phase of Lubitsch's career, with his directorial skills already firmly in place. I'll rate this movie 7 out of 10.
Teutonic bourgeois like German aristocrats, from time to time need some
fresh air in order to take a break from their matrimony obligations
that become dangerously monotonous. So that's precisely what Herr Meyer
( Herr Ernst Lubitsch ) from Berlin did. He took a trip to the Tyrol in
Switzerland, leaving behind his wife Frau Paula ( Frau Ethel Orff ),
and had a good time with the help of an accomplice, his personal
Once in the Tyrol and accordingly dressed like the natives of such a neutral country, Herr Meyer will meet an idle bourgeois woman, Frau Kitty ( Frau Trude Troll ). She is also spending a trifle time in the same elegant hotel (with the permission in this case of her fiancée); She's a beautiful fraulein who constantly is harassed by gentlemen and Herr Meyer isn't exactly an exception about this "Meyer aus Berlin" ( Meyer From Berlin ) (1919) is a characteristic Herr Lubitsch film from his German early silent period. It's a satiric and ironic view about matrimony and bourgeoisie, in where sarcastic comments, puns and hilarious situations gives Herr Lubitsch the chance to do what he likes most. That's to depict the battle of sexes and the peculiar relationship and behaviour among men and women in the institution of matrimony, strict obligations and rules that obviously were made in order to be broken as the German director ( and aristocrats ) have known for ages. Flirting, deceit and lies are men's favourite games and minor sins ...until your wife discovers everything, natürlich!...
Besides being a light comedy as trivial as any matrimony, "Meyer aus Berlin" is also a peculiar early mountain film. (However, in Herr Lubitsch's parameters, natürlich!) So thanks Gott there is no trace of epic climbing, snow or ski races in the film. On the contrary, for Herr Meyer the idea to climb the mount Watzmann as suggested this by Frau Kitty is a terrible idea; Kitty, as it happened with other vigorous Teutonic women, very much likes this genuine German sport, , but to Meyer, it's a tedious and sweating plan that he doesn't like at al preferring more exciting sports like chasing maids or wooing Frau Kitty.
Filmed after "Carmen" (1918), the big budget costume film production that gave Herr Lubitsch world fame and reputation outside Germany, "Meyer aus Berlin" is more prosaic and light entertainment. It is one of these comedies that the German director inserted between expensive and huge film projects. This doesn't mean that these comedies are simple ones, not at all; such pictures display inventive technical effects and careful sceneries that are filmed accordingly with peculiar contemporary stories.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must play the aristocrat's favourite games mentioned before.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Meyer aus Berlin" or "Meyer from Berlin" is a German film from 1919, so this one will soon have its 100th anniversary. The director here is Ernst Lubitsch, still in his 20s at that point and quite a while before his Hollywood breakthrough. Lubitsch also plays one of the central characters and the script comes from a duo including Hanns Kräly, Lubitsch's longtime collaborator and later even an Academy Award winner. Maybe people who really know and love old German films may recognize some of the actors in here, but you probably need to be a massive fan of the black-and-white silent era as with the film's age, there are obviously neither sound nor color in here. This film is basically what romantic comedies looked like a century ago here in Germany. I think there are many weak ones nowadays, but those suck for completely different reasons than this one here. But a problem, both may have in common is the lack of realism at times. Coincidence is always an important factor for me in these films and it has to feel somewhat realistic and I cannot say that this is a case here. That's why even solid actors like Lubitsch or Oswalda can eventually not save the film from becoming a disappointment and I was mostly glad it runs for under an hour only and not much longer. There are some solid moments without a doubt, but all in all it is just not enough and the references about the current objects of affection of the protagonists feel pretty random at times, rushed in at others and just bizarre sometimes too. I wish I could, but I cannot give this film a thumbs-up. Admittedly, I am probably not the biggest black-and-white silent film fan, so my perception may be a bit biased. If you love these films more than I do, maybe it's still worth checking out for you. Just do yourself a favor and don't expect any kind of greatness, so you won't be disappointed.
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